Pace of Job Growth Remains Lackluster

by Anirban Basu 18. October 2011

Anirban BasuThis was supposed to be a decent year for job growth in Maryland.  With the nation’s economy now in recovery and adding jobs, positive base realignment effects, cyber-security, healthcare, higher education, the Port of Baltimore, BWI, retail and other industry drivers, expectations were probably higher coming into the year than at any point since 2007.

But the state’s job engine has generally sputtered.  According to the most recent data available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Maryland’s economy shed 2,500 jobs in August, a 0.1 percent drop from the previous month and only up 0.1 percent from one year prior.  That year-over-year performance ranks the state 43rd in terms of job growth.  During the same twelve-month period, the nation added 1.49 million jobs or 1.0 percent.

While the nation has outperformed Maryland along this dimension, data indicate that job growth has been softening nationally.  This may seem like a strange claim to make since the most recent employment report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed that the nation added 103,000 nonfarm jobs in September, the best performance since July and better than August’s 57,000 net new jobs figure.

But dig into the data, and the message from September is not as clear.  The 103,000 figure includes roughly 45,000 Verizon workers who came back to work.  Strip out those jobs, and the September figure looks more like 58,000.  What’s more, those 45,000 information industry workers went missing from the August jobs data, which means that actual job creation in August was closer to 100,000.  However, approximately 22,000 State of Minnesota employees came back to work in August, meaning that the adjusted August figure is around 78,000.  Consequently, while many people are under the impression that job growth accelerated in September, it did not when one takes extraordinary items into account

What’s more, the pace of job growth continues to fall well short of what is needed to bring down the nation’s unemployment.  For several months, the nation’s leading measure of unemployment has been stuck at 9.1 percent and the nation still has roughly 6.6 million fewer jobs than it did when the recession began in December 2007.  The industries that have suffered the largest job losses include manufacturing, construction and distribution, all key industries in the Baltimore metropolitan area.

The employment look remains cloudy.  Financial markets swooned during the third quarter, perhaps implying further economic slowing in the months ahead.  Were that to occur, job growth would remain lackluster at best.

Anirban Basu is Chairman & CEO of Sage Policy Group, Inc., an economic and policy consulting firm in Baltimore, Maryland. Mr. Basu is one of the Mid-Atlantic region’s most recognizable economists, in part because of his consulting work on behalf of numerous clients, including prominent developers, bankers, brokerage houses, energy suppliers and law firms. On behalf of government agencies and non-profit organizations, Mr. Basu has written several high-profile economic development strategies, including co-authoring Baltimore City’s economic growth strategy. His opinions do not necessarily reflect the opinions and beliefs of 1st Mariner Bank.

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